General Warnings

Why Pancreatic Cancer Patients Should Avoid Some Benzodiazepines

Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach that plays a crucial role in digestion and regulating blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow and divide uncontrollably, forming tumors. It’s important to note that pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, which can make it more challenging to treat successfully.

Pancreatic cancer often presents few symptoms in its early stages, which can make early detection challenging. Common symptoms that might develop as the disease progresses include abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), loss of appetite, and digestive problems.

Pancreatic cancer is relatively uncommon compared to some other types of cancer, but it is one of the deadliest. Its incidence varies by region and population, but globally, pancreatic cancer accounts for a significant number of cancer-related deaths. It is estimated that pancreatic cancer makes up around 3% of all cancers, but its mortality rate is much higher, accounting for about 7% of cancer-related deaths worldwide.

Pancreatic cancer patients should generally avoid foods that are high in saturated fats, processed sugars, and artificial additives. These foods can place additional stress on the pancreas and potentially worsen symptoms. Foods high in trans fats, fried foods, sugary snacks, and desserts, heavily processed foods, and excessive red and processed meats should be limited. Additionally, patients might want to avoid spicy and greasy foods, as these can exacerbate digestive discomfort. A new study is also suggesting that pancreatic cancer patients should avoid certain types of medication including some benzodiazepines.

Why Pancreatic Cancer Patients Should Avoid Some Benzodiazepines

A recent study published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has brought to light potential concerns regarding the use of benzodiazepines, specifically lorazepam (Ativan), in the treatment of anxiety among pancreatic cancer patients. The study revealed that patients prescribed lorazepam exhibited worse outcomes, including shorter survival times and faster disease progression, whereas patients taking alprazolam (Xanax) experienced significantly longer periods of progression-free survival. The research, conducted by Michael Feigin and his team at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, aimed to comprehend how certain palliative care drugs impact tumor growth. Benzodiazepines, commonly used to manage anxiety, insomnia, and seizures in cancer patients, were found to have varying effects on pancreatic cancer outcomes.

While benzodiazepine use was linked to a 30% lower risk of pancreatic cancer-related death overall, the specific drugs used, lorazepam and alprazolam, exhibited divergent outcomes. Patients taking Xanax had a substantially reduced risk of disease progression or death compared to non-users, whereas those taking Ativan had a notably elevated risk. The study’s animal tests suggested that lorazepam might activate a protein, GPR68, associated with increased tumor growth through the promotion of inflammation in the tumor microenvironment. These findings underline the complexity of drug effects and highlight the need for further research, possibly including clinical trials, to better understand the clinical implications of these observations. It’s important to consider that these findings are preliminary, and patients should consult with their healthcare providers before making any changes to their treatment plans.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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